He clenched the ten dollar bill tightly in his little hand– a hand that I still imagine chubby with babyhood and dimples though, in reality, it’s growing long and broad and more capable with each day. The excitement vibrated in his steps and his eyes quickly moved around the store when we entered. My little mathematician was bound and determined to make that ten dollars stretch as far as he could.
His karate class had announced their annual “Kick Out Hunger” drive at his last session. We didn’t have to remind him. Or ask if he wanted to contribute. He remembered all on his own and had been looking forward to this trip.
Up and down the aisles of Aldi he wandered, reading labels, checking prices. He saw that corn and French cut green beans had been temporarily marked down– and that he could afford to buy a case of each with his money. That. That was what he wanted to do, he decided. He could afford 24 cans of vegetables (bear with me– I know corn is a grain) and he was mighty proud of this fact.
Four days later, it was time to deliver them to the class. I wish, more than anything, that I had captured a picture of my five-year-old son carrying one of those cases all by himself to add to the contributions. Such joy. Such pride. Such determination to do good and make a difference.
And, I kid you not, the very next day, I read an article that dripped with loathing toward the donations of “canned vegetables” and “sugary cereal” that come into food pantries. How sad, the author went on, that we would donate food that we would never feed our own families. Things that don’t measure up to our own standards. She spoke of a need for abundant fresh produce, organic oats, and pastured eggs for the poor and malnourished. Honestly, I would much rather my family eat the things she mentioned, too, but it left me feeling bitter and annoyed…
Saying that something isn’t ideal does not necessitate suggesting that it is bad or wrong. And packaged foods? Lend themselves to drives like this. They’re individually sealed, keep for a long time, stack easily, and facilitate distribution. They’re also familiar to many and easy to prepare. Does that negate the fact that they’re less nutritious? Maybe not, but it’s certainly worth mentioning.
I read that post and I thought of my sweet little boy and the joy radiating from his innocent face and I realized…
I’m so happy the organizers of that food drive didn’t feel the need to engage in food snobbery. I’m so glad they met our generous-spirited son’s contribution with smiles of gratitude.
Even if it isn’t perfect.